So since we paid another short visit to New York City this week, it was once again time for me to be awestruck by the sheer scale of the New York subway system.

Our hotel was in Brooklyn very near Borough Hall*, and this particular region is a tangled confluence of subway lines that makes it possible to travel to an extraordinary variety of places without even changing trains, provided you descend into the earth in the right place. I think this is partly because the system was formed from the 1940 merger of the privately-run IRT and BMT and the city-run IND subway systems, all of which competed to haul people between Manhattan and Brooklyn, resulting in a vast overabundance of river crossings near that spot.

Anyway, in the course of one short visit, Jorie and I managed to ride routes originally belonging to all three original systems. (I say Jorie and I, since on Saturday the rest of our party split up; my niece Greta got sick to her stomach and had to hang around the hotel, my sister's family and my parents visited nearby parts of Brooklyn as they traded off looking after Greta, and Samantha opted to visit the Museum of Natural History instead of MoMath, and therefore missed out on our exploration of the BMT R route.)

Often, the experience was profoundly confusing; while the MTA's grand map makes a game effort at summarizing the myriad complexities of the system, a given dot on the map can actually correspond to multiple disconnected station entrances (which are sometimes actually separate stations from competing pre-1940 companies), and signage is often inadequate.

Since I had previous experience with the New York subway, I at least didn't make the mistake of trying to identify the lines by color on the map (as one might do from experience with Boston or DC), or to assume that the difference between lettered and numbered routes had other than historical and technical significance (the routes with numbers are the IRT lines, and their trains aren't fully interchangeable with the IND/BMT trains).

The trains were of varying vintage; one was a recent model with a fancy reprogrammable LED route sign that always showed the next ten stops, and a rotating selection of highlights from the rest of the line. I didn't ride the Canarsie L route, which my father helped convert some years ago to an automated system theoretically capable of driverless operation.

An interesting fan site, with pages on many other subway systems as well: http://www.nycsubway.org/wiki/Main_Page

*It is also close to Junior's on Flatbush Avenue, http://www.juniorscheesecake.com/ , which has my seal of approval, not just for the desserts either.
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